What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, plants, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.

VIDEO: What is aquaculture? Here's what you need to know in less than a minute. Transcript

As the demand for seafood has increased, technology has made it possible to grow food in coastal marine waters and the open ocean. Aquaculture is a method used to produce food and other commercial products, restore habitat and replenish wild stocks, and rebuild populations of threatened and endangered species.

There are two main types of aquaculture—marine and freshwater. NOAA efforts primarily focus on marine aquaculture, which refers to farming species that live in the ocean.

In the United States, marine aquaculture produces numerous species including oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, seaweeds, and fish such as salmon, black sea bass, sablefish, yellowtail, and pompano. There are many ways to farm marine shellfish, including “seeding” small shellfish on the seafloor or by growing them in sinking or floating cages. Marine fish farming is typically done in net pens in the water or in tanks on land.

U.S. freshwater aquaculture produces species such as catfish and trout. Freshwater aquaculture primarily takes place in ponds or other manmade systems.

NOAA is committed to supporting an aquaculture industry that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. NOAA experts and partners work to understand the environmental effects of aquaculture in different settings and provide best management practices to help reduce the risk of negative impacts.

Video Transcript

Aquaculture is breeding, raising, and harvesting fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Basically, it’s farming in water. U.S. aquaculture is an environmentally responsible source of food and commercial products, helps to create healthier habitats, and is used to rebuild stocks of threatened or endangered species.

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What do you get when you combine aquaculture and hydroponics? Aquaponics!

Aquaponics uses wastewater produced by facilities that raise fish or other marine animals to supply nutrients for plants that are grown hydroponically (without soil). The plants, in turn, purify the water, which is returned to the marine animals. NOAA’s Sea Grant Program is supporting efforts to operate the largest aquaponics operation in the world. The 123,000-square-foot greenhouse, located in Wisconsin, harvests various types of greens. The water from an adjoining facility that raises salmon and rainbow trout is pumped to the greenhouse through underground pipes. The plants cleanse the water of ammonia, which is harmful to the fish. The purified water is then recirculated back to the fish-farming facility.

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Last updated: 10/10/18
Author: NOAA
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